The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

9 October 2007

An American evolution

When I was knee-high to a Renault Dauphine, there was a lot of talk in automotive advertising about the "low-priced three." Perennial number three Plymouth was taken out behind the barn and shot at the turn of the century, and judging from the Malibu ad I saw in the November Automobile, Chevrolet doesn't want to be a member of this club any more:

Chevy is now the world's fastest-growing nameplate, with a third of its sales outside the United States. At home, Chevy sells more cars and trucks costing over $35,000 than anybody.

Inasmuch as I can't imagine any way to worry the sticker on an Impala all the way up to $35k, I have to assume that this means a whole bunch of Silverados and Suburbans, interrupted by the occasional Corvette. And thirty-five K is a serious price point: this is where Infiniti starts, where BMW's 1-series is expected to land, where Accord and Camry so far fear to tread. Not that GM expects to get this kind of money for a mid-sized sedan that isn't a Cadillac, of course:

The new Malibu demonstrates similar creativity and passion. Only Chevrolet would think of selling a $35,000 car for significantly less.

Cross-shop the Malibu and the Avalon? What color is the sky in this brave new world of Chevrolet?

Still, give the bow-tie boys credit for sheer, unadulterated guts: this is right up there with Lee Iacocca's half-sneered "If you can find a better car, buy it." The General, at least judging by its advertising, is getting downright ebullient. For instance: complaints about crummy-looking interiors have bedeviled Detroit for ages, so GM these days is showing actual interiors. In detail, yet. "Look upon our dashboards, ye Mighty, and despair!" If you go for the full-Lutz — er, full LTZ — you're looking at twenty-seven or so.

And from this vantage point, the new 'Bu has several things to recommend it: it's not as soporific as the Camry, not as facially challenged as the Fusion, not as wonky as the Sebring/Avenger twins. This suggests a specific niche: the Anti-Accord. With Honda emphasizing Blackberry-style utility this year, Chevy might want to twist the fun controls up to ten. Maybe eleven.

Posted at 2:28 PM to Driver's Seat

The Malibu used to be a pretty sweet car back in the 60's. How did it go from that to what it is now? I've never seen a car morph so completely in the opposite direction.

Posted by: michele at 5:10 AM on 10 October 2007

The whole market shifted, and not in a good way. Performance is now a separate species rather than an option package.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:30 AM on 10 October 2007

Could have been worse. They could have turned it into a minivan.

Posted by: McGehee at 11:38 AM on 10 October 2007